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In this stimulating work, a leading European scientist takes a critical look at theories and ideas at the heart of orthodox electromagnetics. Characterized by its author as an "essay in constructive criticism," the book has as its chief purpose an examination, through careful analysis of standard texts and treatises, of accepted theory and the presentation of guidelines for a reconstruction in the field. Unfettered by dogma, authority, or consensus, this is a work in the great searching tradition of scientific advance.
Professor O'Rahilly points out inadequacies and inconsistencies in various "established" concepts, such as the notion of displacement current in Maxwell's equations and Lorentz's "local time," and in theories of Heaviside, Kelvin, Einstein, Minkowski, J. J. Thomson, Hertz, Poynting, Weyl, etc. Extensive reference to primary sources (plus much directly quoted material) is made in these analyses. And there are closely reasoned" arguments in support of ideas which, the author believes, have not had adequate hearing: the proposals of Lorenz and Riemann (in lieu of Maxwell's displacement current), and contributions of Ritz, Gauss, Weber, Duhem, and others. The author also rejects the priority of the concepts of electric and magnetic fields and makes a strong case instead for the Lienard-Schwarzschild force-formula. Other discussions include an exposition of the meaning of the symbols of physics and an interesting chapter on units and "dimensions."
In the course of its critical restructuring of electromagnetic theory, the book provides an extremely valuable, understandable history of the subject, with thorough documentation and reference to the electromagnetics literature of the last century. All in all, this volume is a basic source of information and insight that every serious student in the field should read.
Some comments from distinguished reviewers: "Contains an enormous amount of critical material of the highest value. . . . On every page there is evidence of the author's acute mind and vast learning," E. T. Whittaker, The Tablet. "The book is well worth studying even if merely for the sake of awakening consciousness of the many doubtful and unsettled places still remaining in the structure of electrodynamics," P. W. Bridgman, Amer. Chem. Soc. Jnl. "Prof. O'Rahilly deserves our cordial thanks and admiration for the energy, skill and courage with which he has undertaken this formidable task," C. V. Drysdale, Nature.
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